Carrie and Allison's flashbacks reveal the truth about their intertwined pasts.
This was the episode we’d been waiting for — at least, those of us invested in Allison’s history — and it delivered. Allison may have seemed like a cold-blooded killer in the moments we discovered she was a double agent, but clearly, she’s not heartless; she’s simply ambitious. She also knows she’s trapped, and that one day Carrie will somehow find out the truth.
And, boy, is she worried about that happening. She meets again with Krupin, dismayed at how his men failed to get Carrie in Amsterdam. He’s reluctant to cause more bloodshed, telling her they “need to be smart now.” So, even though it’s been eight hours since Carrie contacted her, he urges to wait for Carrie’s instructions. So she does: While standing by for Carrie’s call back at the CIA headquarters, Allison meets with Dar to defend herself, saying she had no part in Saul’s disappearance. Dar’s skeptical of what happened in the hotel when Saul turned up the radio and turned on the faucets, but Allison plays the sleeping-with-Saul card: She lies to Dar, saying Saul only wanted to tell her he loved her and ask for her help.
Under all this stress, Allison heads online and shops for bags while continuing to wait. Finally, Carrie calls and reveals that earlier that day, she had headed to a village east of Hamburg, where she managed to slip a note for Allison inside a prayer book in a church. Carrie’s anxious, repeatedly looking over her shoulder, and she even sounds shaky when she gets a call from Otto after telling Allison to head to the village. Otto, sneaky Otto, is wondering if the employee he’s planning to cut is okay. Carrie says she needs Numan’s help to crack the password-protected hard drive of the laptop she took from Amsterdam. When she asks Otto if he’d seen Jonas, he lies, because he’s either planning something or he’s protective of her feelings. (I’m leaning toward the former.)
But the show doesn’t dive much deeper in this hour over what’s really going on inside Otto’s head. Instead, it follows Allison as she makes her way to the village where Carrie dropped off the note. There, Krupin pays her a short visit, and while Allison seems a tad surprised at his appearance, she tells him her plan: She’ll meet Carrie at a cafe in the village and see what she knows. Krupin adds one more detail: He’ll have a sniper ready to kill Carrie if she indeed knows too much, and the signal Allison will use will be to light a cigarette.
Before we get to the meeting, however, there are flashbacks we see showing just how closely Carrie and Allison are connected. (The show rarely uses the flashback device; the last one I can think of is from season 1, with Brody. Hallucinations are used far more often.) The first one is from Carrie’s arrival in Baghdad back in 2005. She’s still blonde and blazer-ed, but check out that styled hair: She’s put it partially up! Oh, and her trusty messenger bag isn’t anywhere in sight. In other words, this younger, greener Carrie looks more idealistic; there’s almost a spring in her step as she walks into the Baghdad CIA station. Maybe the most jarring difference is how earnestly she looks at the wall of soldiers the CIA wants to bring home and at the picture of Brody hanging smack in the middle. That part of her story hasn’t happened yet. So much hasn’t happened to her yet:
Contrast that with Allison, who Carrie meets inside. This Allison’s slightly different in her looks, too — hello, bangs! — but her outlook is largely the same. She sounds wary and jaded, mostly about what’s going on in the war-torn country, and about her job itself. But she does that job well: When they run into Samir, the judge we saw calling Carrie last episode, Allison calmly introduces them and skates over Samir’s request for help in security at the Ministry of Justice.
By the time they arrive in Allison’s dusty Baghdad office, young Carrie is ready to begin working for Operation Iraqi Freedom. She picks up on Allison’s less-than-enthusiastic demeanor, though, and asks her for the truth of what’s going on. Allison begins by offering some canned answers — everything’s fine, Carrie will learn plenty in the job — and then reveals just how bad the situation has gotten, with the body count increasing every day because of suicide bombers, death squads, and intel that gets them nowhere. “And we’re supposed to build a functioning society in the middle of that?” Allison asks, incredulous. “You can’t shove democracy down people’s throats.”
Carrie, trying to be helpful, asks Allison where she’ll be headed when she passes her job into Carrie’s capable hands. At that, Allison smiles. She’ll be spending time away from work, shopping to replace her wardrobe and relaxing for two weeks in St. Lucia in the West Indies. “There’s a little bar on the beach, Banana Joe’s,” Allison says, smiling to herself. “Best daiquiris on the planet. And the men are gorgeous.” The camera pans to Carrie, who watches the worldly Allison intently.
And that, Homeland fans, isn’t all Carrie and Allison went through years and years ago…
NEXT: Allison gambled on a (literally) valuable asset
In the present, Allison heads to the meeting spot Carrie had listed in her note. Carrie watches and then approaches the table, on which Allison has placed her cigarettes and lighter — you know, just in case she needs Krupin’s sniper to take Carrie out. But Carrie knows too little: During their meeting, Carrie asks questions about what’s going on while Allison feigns ignorance about Carrie’s plot. It’s too bad Carrie doesn’t notice how much Allison is stonewalling her, but then again, Carrie is emotionally compromised: When she doesn’t get any clues, she starts to cry out of frustration and fear.
And even after that, Allison still refuses to give Carrie field reports of her time handling Ahmed, also known as “Acrobat” when he was an asset to the CIA. Eventually, Allison calms Carrie down by promising she’ll see what she can do, as long as none of the hacked documents Carrie obtained “see the light of day, ever again.” Carrie promises she won’t and reveals to Allison that no one else knows about any of this. Satisfied, Allison puts away her cigarettes, and then warns Carrie, “Watch your back.”
Relations between the two women definitely weren’t this chilly back when they worked together in Baghdad. In another flashback, the pair manage to reason with Samir, who’s insisting on arresting Ahmed to protect other judges, because Ahmed’s luxurious lifestyle is a red flag. As soon as Carrie offers her services (and promises) to Samir and shows him out, Allison tells her she can’t do anything for the man and his colleagues, because Ahmed/Acrobat is too valuable of an asset, whose intel reaches even the POTUS.
Allison warns Carrie that Acrobat is needy and harbors “a thing” for Allison (“Hey, I’ve been there,” Carrie responds, not yet knowing just how far she’ll take things with Brody, and later, Aayan). But he proves to be even more difficult than that. When he meets Carrie for the first time, he instantly refuses to work with her, despite her pleas and her offer of more money. He’s adamant, saying that because he’s the one taking all the risks in getting the intel the CIA needs, he should be able to choose his handler. Sorry, Carrie — he just really wants Allison. And sorry, Allison — unless she manages to convince him otherwise in a week, she can wave that St. Lucia trip goodbye.
Or maybe not. A week later, Allison tries to reason with Ahmed again, only to have him attempt to seduce her. “You know why I come here,” he murmurs, “why I meet with you.” And then he brings out his trump card: a suitcase full of cash he’s siphoned off from the Ministry’s basement over time. Allison at first insists on reporting it, but grows speechless when Ahmed tells her he loves her, and that he has more than 8 million dollars he can use. Later, she lies to Carrie about her meeting with him, telling her that he went for more money before adding that Carrie may not be able to see him for a few weeks, because he’ll be “meeting with his sister.”
And yet, after all that deception, it turns out Allison’s the actual victim of lies. When she meets with Ahmed again — this time greeting him with a kiss — and outlines the plan to leave with the fortune, she realizes he’s not actually in love with her; he’s just a plant by the SVR, a fact she curses at as soon as she sees Krupin walk out of the shadows. It’s clear she knows who Krupin is, and Krupin knows her, but at this point, Allison doesn’t appear to have been fully on board with being a double just yet. Given the harshness of Krupin’s blackmailing — he says the cameras in the room captured her betrayal — she’s forced to be recruited into the SVR.
Still, that’s just my reading of the scene. Allison and Krupin know each other, and given how he gloats at having captured her “red-handed,” it appears he’s been trying to make her go full double agent for a while. And now, she can’t help but do his bidding. “I believe the more cooperation between our two countries, the better,” he argues, saying she’ll never have to compromise the security of the U.S. in her mission. “I know it sounds a little naive, but it doesn’t have to be. You see, this little spy game we’re playing here doesn’t have to be one-sided. I can pass intelligence to you, too, Allison. Not bulls—. Real intelligence that will help you rise in your career, just as me recruiting you will help me rise in mine.”
Allison only turns to look at him. He says he knows what she’s thinking and goes on to promise her half of the real — yes, real — millions they have packed away in suitcases. Krupin hands her her gun back, and ensures that she’ll work with him going forward.
To do so, she lies to Carrie about Ahmed’s death in the bombing of the Ministry of Justice. And despite her compromised status, Allison does speak a nugget of truth to Carrie then, telling her: “The harder we try, the worse it gets.” That’s as good a summary of both of their careers as it’s gonna get.
At least, that’s certainly what happens to Carrie after her meeting with Allison in the present. Numan manages to find a way into Ahmed’s hard drive — a process Otto watches — and though they have nothing to work on, Carrie picks up on one chance clue: the laptop’s screensaver, which shows a picture of a shirtless Ahmed on a beach. (The guy really was a self-absorbed jerk if he set a handsome photo of himself as his personal laptop’s screensaver. You know who would never do that? Quinn.) Carrie remembers her conversation with Allison about St. Lucia and Banana Joe’s, and after some quick Googling from Numan, she realizes the location in the screensaver photo is that of Banana Joe’s, with its equally dazzling daiquiris and men. And with that, she connects the dots. “Oh my God,” she says. “Allison.”
And with that, the Carrie vs. Allison showdown can properly begin.
NEXT: Quinn and Saul go from point A to B and back again
Quinn’s been pushing his luck on his mission to sorta-kinda help a group of jihadis get to the Syrian border. On the ride there, he sleeps soundly as Bibi drives, only to wake up in Kosovo. Disturbed, Quinn tries to figure out what they want to do, but Bibi only tells him they need some R&R before going about their task — and that he needs to stay cooped up in the van, because their hosts won’t take to him kindly.
With no other option, Quinn obediently stays inside the van and peers out of the window. When one group member brings Quinn food in the morning, Quinn asks if they’re there to pick up weapons, because if they are, well, they’ll never make it across the border. The man hesitates, but leaves without revealing anything. Later, Quinn sees Bibi and their host drive off, which gives him a chance to leave the van and do some recon around the house. He discovers very little: In a stack of cases, he finds gas masks. Just what exactly are these jihadis up to?
At night, Quinn finds out. Bibi and the host have returned with a van that can hold far more supplies, and when Quinn questions whether the space is for weapons, he gets knocked out, unceremoniously bound and gagged, and shoved inside the van. Bibi reveals that they’re not going to Syria after all: They’re heading back to Berlin, where those gas masks will very likely come in handy — especially as Quinn spots a large barrel of something chemical and probably deadly.
Speaking of death, Saul’s effectively — in his words — “f—ed.” With nowhere to go, he’s turned to Etai Loskin, who’s keeping him safe for now while he decides whether to defect for real. Saul says he can’t officially leave the CIA, so he should just leave the premises. Instead, he’s forced to stay inside by a guard, and later finds out why: An Israel intelligence officer (I didn’t catch her name, but she’s played by Hadar Ratzon-Rotem, who, along with Makram Khoury, the actor playing Samir, starred on Prisoners of War, the Israeli drama on which Homeland is based) visits Saul to talk about what he wants to do with Israel. “I will take you back to Dar Adal now before you cause an international incident,” she warns.
So Saul launches into his long story, telling her about the Russians blowing up General Youssef’s plane. She doesn’t dismiss the theory right away, acknowledging that the Russians have a stake in keeping Assad in power in Syria, so she gives Saul until morning to hear from his agent in the field. (Hurry, Carrie!) Too bad he ends up not even having that long to work with: Etai surprises him in the middle of the night, telling him to get up and go because Dar’s on his way to get him. And so Saul bolts — for where, who knows?
In fact, a ton is left up in the air at the end of the hour. Carrie’s figured out that Allison is connected through Ahmed, but it’s unclear how much she’s figured out. Quinn is once again in a ton of danger and may need more than a glib tongue to get out. Otto’s clearly cooking something up that will affect Carrie, but what that plan is has not been revealed. And as for Allison? She probably thinks she’s safe, but how long will she have before news arrives that Carrie got to Ahmed’s laptop and may have figured everything out? On the bright side, at least Miranda Otto got a passable wig in the flashbacks, which also spared us more of Carrie’s raggedy brown one:
…Look, with Quinn, Saul, and Carrie in danger, I’ll take any positives I can get.